Reading William French's Gravestone
What can we learn about history in a graveyard?
Gravestones can provide historians with a lot of information. The gravestone can tell us details about when or where someone died. The decorations on the stone can tell us about the religious beliefs or interests of the deceased(person who died). And the epitaph(words written on a gravestone, sometimes as a poem) can sometimes help us understand what was happening when the person died.
William French was killed in the Westminster Massacre. Look at the photo of his gravestone. What symbols do you see? What words can you read?
Slide the green dot to the right for help reading the epitaph.
By reading the information on the gravestone, can you tell when and where William French died?
His epitaph says he was shot on March 13, 1775, in the Westminster Court House.
Who shot him with a musket ball (or bullet)?
The gravestone says it was the men who worked for King George III. But the argument was between the New York Sheriffs and the settlers of the New Hampshire Grants.
Why might his family blame King George III instead of the New York Sheriffs?
William French was killed during a disagreement between the Grants and the Yorkers. But at the same time, the colonies were staring to rebel against England and King George III. William French's death was used to make Vermonters support the fight against the king.
Is that why his gravestone says that he was killed for liberty and his county's good?
Yes! His family believed that he died for the freedom of his country. He died so King George III would no longer make decisions about who owned Vermont's land.
Thinking About History
Historians ask questions to think deeply about history.
Did you know that gravestones could make political statements? This gravestone used to be in a graveyard in Westminster, Vermont. Who is buried in your town's graveyards? What interesting stories can you learn from reading their graves?
Follow the links below to explore related topics.
Read more about the Westminster Massacre
Copy and paste this citation to show where you did your research.
Vermont Historical Society. "Reading William French's Gravestone." Vermont History Explorer. Accessed March 28, 2023. https://vermonthistoryexplorer.org/reading-william-frenchs-gravestone